Image of a woman using the app at the beachAfter concerns from Mid West residents about their seaside homes on the eroding coastline, the Northern Agricultural Catchments Council (NACC) developed an idea to involve the community in monitoring the coastline.  

This in turn led to a successful funding application to WA Department of Planning’s Coastwest Grants Program to develop the app. NACC contracted an app developer to create the photo monitoring app, Photomon. The app enables community volunteers to take photos on their smart phones to record coastal erosion.

Two years later Photomon Services was developed as a cost-recovery service, allowing resource managers everywhere to make use of Photomon and its database. This was enabled by the Natural Resource Management’s Community Action Grant.

The app works by using a reference photo – the first photo taken at the site – as a baseline shot that appears as a transparent image. This allows the volunteer to frame the shot in the exact same place as previously. The photos are automatically uploaded to a database, along with the date, time and location.

While photo monitoring to record environmental change has been around for some time, this is the first time convenient smartphone technology has been incorporated into the process to make it more accurate and user-friendly.

Since the project’s inception in 2013, an army of community volunteers has recorded more than 10,000 photos at about 100 sites stretching from Guilderton to Kalbarri. The information has proven invaluable in helping land managers plan for rising sea levels and receding coastlines.

The success of Photomon has seen the app now being used to monitor weed control and revegetation sites. In addition, increasing interest in the app has seen NACC increase its staff to assist in establishing Photomon services in other natural resource management organisations around Australia.

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